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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 10 March 2012
I'm only halfway through Shieldwall but have been driven to write a review because of the extraordinary quality of this book.

After reading Julian Rathbone's The Last English King, I became very interested in historical fiction and have enjoyed many fine novels (Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden etc.)

Unfortunately, I have found some diminishing returns in recent years and, all too often, have failed to finish books due to clunky writing, poor story-telling and other perceived faults (maybe I'm just getting fussy in middle-age).

However, Shieldwall has had a similar impact to The Last English King. The writing is beautiful and the characters are entirely believable. I've just got to the first battle scene and it was as exciting (and upsetting) a depiction of combat as I've ever read. Somebody died (I won't say who) and it felt like it hit me as hard as the arrow hit the character.

I understand there will be a sequel. Thank goodness as I don't want this book to end.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 June 2011
When I ordered this book, my expectations were somewhat low. It seemed that this one would be yet another book on the Vikings battling and raiding the Anglo-Saxons. Yet this one stands out in several respects.

The main character is somewhat original. Instead of the "usual" novels on the Great Army or King Alfred, on the one hand, and all the stuff on Harold Godwinson, 1066 and all that, this book is about the younger years of his father - Godwin Wulfnothson, under King Ethelread and Edmund "Ironside".

It is also very well researched and well documented with the author "sticking" to historical facts as much as he can and telling a plausible story where there are no facts - such as the role of Wulfnoth and his exile in Dublin, of which we know next to nothing.

One disappointment, however, was that Justin Hill seemed less interested in telling the story of Godwin's service to Knut. A pity because this is itself could have made a good story. Perhaps he is saving it for his second tome which I will most certainly buy.
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was a little anxious about reading Shieldwall - it was on the Amazon Vine Review list, so out of curiosity I selected it. My concern - I too write Historical Fiction and two of my novels are exactly of this period.

As historical fiction novelists, it is up to us to do the research, get the facts as right as we can, breath life into people who lived several hundred years ago - and invent the rest as plausibly as we can and make the narrative as believable as possible.

Justin Hill has done this superbly.

I am a huge Godwin and Harold Godwinsson supporter (Harold is my hero) and my own interpretation of their story - and Emma and Cnut's - is very dear to me.

Shieldwall did not disappoint - in fact the opposite. And Huzzah for more about Edmund Ironside - what a fantastic King he would have made. I admire and respect that guy - he deserves his own book!

There were some things I didn't agree with - but all history is a matter of interpretation and opinion. We all have our own views and argue like mad over which one of us is right. At the end of the day, though, this is a novel written for entertainment, it is not meant to be a history book.... so its a damn fine read!

(I'm now anxious to see what the author does with 1066..... no Norman propaganda I hope? Duke William had no right to the English throne....)
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 24 August 2014
Justin Hill I thought? I've never heard of him as an author of Historical Fiction - and that is because, despite him writing a number of books, he has never written books on this era. So how does his first outing fair? It's superb! It really has jumped to my favourite book on this era. Strating just before the battle of Assundune (Ashingdon... ok it's slightly debatable whether it is ashdon or Ashingdon...) and finishing at the battle of Hastings and following the Godwins it really is a rip-roaring read.

I cannot wait for his next historical novel - I do hope he supplies us with one soon!
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VINE VOICEon 15 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To be honest, I wasn't sure about this one at the start, it seemed a bit lacklustre and slow.
How wrong can you be?
Once into its stride this became a gripping tale of some of history's less well known, but in their time, major players. Justin Hill's novel is well researched and shines a welcome and erudite light on 'The Dark Ages' pre 1066.
Those interested in history will be familiar with Harold Godwinson etc. but I'm willing to bet few will be aware of his father's doings let alone his grandfather's. This then is the setting for 'Shieldwall' and while the events portrayed played out a thousand years ago Mr Hill puts a very creditable, if difficult to prove, interpretation on them. The result is an excellent novel, Mr Hill has the story telling gift, no doubt of it.
If you like Conn Iggulden or Harry sidebottom try Justin Hill I don't think you will be disappointed, I'm certainly eager for the next instalment.
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Justin Hill is one of many to have just begun a historical series set around 1066. However, he has made a better start than most. Hill has a similar academic background to James Aitcheson, who is covering much of the same ground, but from the Norman point of view. They have both cribbed the Saxon place names from the same sources and have read the same original chronicles. Hill has chosen a key protagonist. Aitcheson has invented an unknown.

Hill has the trickier job. He is following the Conn Igguldsen route. Take the key character in a turbulent period of history, start with his youth and character formation, and hang the whole tale on that: eg. Caesar and Genghis Khan. Napier does the same with Attila the Hun. The alternative, I would call the Cornwell/CS Forester school - make up an individual then plonk them into every major event of that period. the great benefit of the first scholl is that the story, if good enough in itself will propel the whole thing along quite nicely, which is what happens here. The book clatters along, makes no mistakes, informs and interests. The drawback is that it rarely gets the pulse racing. The worst proponents of this style in the 70s and 80s were first Nigel Tranter (Scottish History) and then Sharon Penman (Wars of the Roses). The other style is usually much more exciting, but is very unforgiving of poor characterisation and loose plotting. That's why bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow sell so well, and usually the other kind doesnt. This is the better end of the other kind.

So what do we have? A clear well told story, but VERY limited excitement. Much blood is spilled but there is nothing very gutsy here. If you want the exciting school of historical fiction don't go for this. If you are interested in history for itself, it's a good primer on the period without having to read REALLY boring books.
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on 31 March 2015
I can't write a full review yet because I am only about halfway through but so far, it is on a par with Bernard Cornwall's 'Warrior Chronicles' which I have enjoyed immensely. It is a really good read so far.
I will most definitely be looking out for more books by this Author.
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on 30 November 2013
Brings to life the (deliberately?) forgotten and neglected period of English history. Genuinely heroic figures and real villains who modern school children know nothing about are brought to life.
I can't help but wonder if J RR Tolkien's 'Wormtongue' character was really based on Eadric Streona... it's just such a perfect fit!

The writing style gives the reader a feel for the times - the prose is excellent.

It is also an exciting story written around real events which shaped English history to the extent that ultimately English society was ultimately be destroyed by a few thousand ruthless pirates and mercenaries from Normandy, some of whose descendents remain influential figures in the modern British establishment
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on 10 March 2013
What's best about this book is the mood and climate of the times, captured by the author. It seems obvious to compare "Shieldwall" to the acclaimed Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, and of course the latter is superior, regarding the plot, the characters, the writing style. However, all credit to Justin Hill for selecting the period before Hastings and describe the struggles of the English against the persistant Danish invaders. I could mention some frustrating and weaker parts to this book. But no, it is definitely a great read for the historical fiction collector and I eagerly await the next part.
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on 31 May 2013
Most historical novels you read are kind of the literary equivalent of a waxwork museum, or a costume drama. Reading them, you're always aware that the author's looking back at the era through 21st century glasses, and the portrait is unintentionally shaded by our time, it's prejudices and tastes. "Shieldwall" is different; it's a heck of an imaginative feat, how can I explain it? Justin Hill captures an England just about to emerge from the dark ages, the radiance and the terror of an England at once primal in its unspoiled beauty and in the savagery of war. He writes a vivid prose, that manages a hard Anglo-Saxon realism and a poetry that is all his, and the characters after 20 pages or so, become people we know as deeply as we've known anyone, and I can think of no higher praise for a writer than that. "Shieldwall" is a kind of necromancy; Mr. Hill has brought the voice of Old England back from the darkness, and I recommend the book utterly.
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